The Golden Dustman falls into Bad Company

WERE Bella Wilfer’s bright and ready little wits at fault, or was the Golden Dustman passing through the furnace of proof and coming out dross? Ill news travels fast. We shall know full soon.

On that very night of her return from the Happy Return, something chanced which Bella closely followed with her eyes and ears. There was an apartment at the side of the Boffin mansion, known as Mr. Boffin’s room. Far less grand than the rest of the house, it was far more comfortable, being pervaded by a certain air of homely snugness, which upholstering despotism had banished to that spot when it inexorably set its face against Mr. Boffin’s appeals for mercy in behalf of any other chamber. Thus, although a room of modest situation — for its windows gave on Silas Wegg’s old corner — and of no pretensions to velvet, satin, or gilding, it had got itself established in a domestic position analogous to that of an easy dressing- gown or pair of slippers; and whenever the family wanted to enjoy a particularly pleasant fireside evening, they enjoyed it, as an institution that must be, in Mr. Boffin’s room.

Mr. and Mrs Boffin were reported sitting in this room, when Bella got back. Entering it, she found the Secretary there too; in official attendance it would appear, for he was standing with some papers in his hand by a table with shaded candles on it, at which Mr. Boffin was seated thrown back in his easy chair.

“You are busy, sir,” said Bella, hesitating at the door.

“Not at all, my dear, not at all. You’re one of ourselves. We never make company of you. Come in, come in. Here’s the old lady in her usual place.”

Mrs. Boffin adding her nod and smile of welcome to Mr. Boffin’s words, Bella took her book to a chair in the fireside corner, by Mrs. Boffin’s work-table. Mr. Boffin’s station was on the opposite side.

“Now, Rokesmith,” said the Golden Dustman, so sharply rapping the table to bespeak his attention as Bella turned the leaves of her book, that she started; “where were we?”

“You were saying, sir,” returned the Secretary, with an air of some reluctance and a glance towards those others who were present, “that you considered the time had come for fixing my salary.”

“Don’t be above calling it wages, man,” said Mr. Boffin, testily. “What the deuce! I never talked of my salary when I was in service.”

“My wages,” said the Secretary, correcting himself.

“Rokesmith, you are not proud, I hope?” observed Mr. Boffin, eyeing him askance.

“I hope not, sir.”

“Because I never was, when I was poor,” said Mr. Boffin. “Poverty and pride don’t go at all well together. Mind that. How can they go well together? Why it stands to reason. A man, being poor, has nothing to be proud of. It’s nonsense.”

With a slight inclination of his head, and a look of some surprise, the Secretary seemed to assent by forming the syllables of the word “nonsense’ on his lips.

“Now, concerning these same wages,” said Mr. Boffin. “Sit down.”

The Secretary sat down.

“Why didn’t you sit down before?” asked Mr. Boffin, distrustfully. “I hope that wasn’t pride? But about these wages. Now, I’ve gone into the matter, and I say two hundred a year. What do you think of it? Do you think it’s enough?”

“Thank you. It is a fair proposal.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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